Authorities spent 4½ hours Monday investigating a "suspicious package" placed outside a chemical storage room at the Bayfield Water Treatment Plant.
Inside the package - really a red and white cooler - was fish. About 12 pounds of freshly caught pike, to be exact.
"We did have a suspicious package at the door of the water treatment plant," said Rich Graeber, chief of the Upper Pine River Fire Protection District. "We opened it up, and it was fish in there.
"It was actually kind of a relief," he added. "I was kind of hopeful that it would be something like that."
A Public Works Department employee noticed the package about 9:30 a.m. and notified the Bayfield Marshal's Office. The Marshal's Office didn't like the looks of the package and called the Upper Pine River Fire Protection District. The fire department called the Durango Fire & Rescue Authority hazmat team, and the hazmat team deferred to the Farmington Bomb Squad.
The cooler finally was opened about 2 p.m. by Woody, a robot with the Farmington Bomb Squad.
"We've seen different things over the years," said Officer Stephen Smith, lead bomb technician with Farmington Police Department. "I think this is the first fish one we've had."
As of Monday afternoon, authorities were unsure how the cooler got there or why it was there. But considering the suspicious nature of the package and its location in front of a chemical storage room and near two schools, authorities didn't take any chances.
"Everything that happened out there was precautionary," said Bayfield Town Manager Justin Clifton.
During much of the investigation, Bayfield Middle School and Bayfield High School were on soft lockdown, meaning students could come and go from the campuses, and outdoor activities were canceled, said Don Magill, superintendent of the Bayfield School District.
"We kind of went in that mode just as a safeguard," he said.
The incident had a positive outcome and proved to be a good exercise in the event of a real crisis, Graeber said.
"Now the humorous stories can fly, but if it happened five minutes from now, we'd do it exactly the same way," he said. "It was a fishy package."